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Professional Women's Football: Not a 'Cause,' but a Business
Corporate-speak has leaked into the headquarters of the Women's United Soccer Association, enough to dampen some shoes. "It has an important social part, but the WUSA is

Rebekah Splaine of the W-League's New England Renegades. She had two assists playing for the reconstituted Boston Breakers on 19 June. (onlyagame.org)
not a cause," says Tony DiCicco, the former league commissioner, now listed as a management consultant. "I don't want it to be a cause. It has to be a business" (Michael Klitzing, "It's No Apparition; It Really Is the Spirit," North County Times [Calif.]). DiCicco's comments came on the eve of the second of two league festivals, intended to precede what DiCicco calls a "soft relaunch" in 2005 and a full return in 2006. If DiCicco's business-first approach works, then we are all for it. (See Pam Schmid, "Women's Pro Soccer Leagues Face Uphill Battle," Minneapolis Star Tribune, 20 June, for a recent assessment of the WUSA's chances.)

Much of the media attention on the defunct women's league has been directed toward ex-players and their diverse pursuits. Many are still playing, in the W-League and the Women's Premier Soccer League (listen to the story on WBUR Boston's Only a Game, 22 May, and to the update on 3 July; the second link opens the Real Media Player). "In the meantime," the Washington Post writes while tracking down members of the last league champion, the Freedom, "many former players are adjusting to a new life of standardized hours spent amid cubicles and telephone headsets and office supplies" (Dan Steinberg, "Coping with the Loss of Freedom," 13 June). The Freedom, like other WUSA teams, are keeping themselves together with informal training sessions and scrimmages. Washington has scheduled a friendly for 14 July with Nottingham Forest Ladies Football Club (see Beau Dure, "League in Limbo, but Games Go On," USA Today, 24 June). The taste of professional sports appears to have changed those who were involved. In the Washington Post account, we learn that ex-Freedom player Jacqui Little wept as her boyfriend, D.C. United goalkeeper Nick Rimando, began training for the season. And former U.S. international striker Tiffeny Milbrett suggests that the taste of professional life with the New York Power helped lead her to leave the senior national side:

I'm an adult. I'm 31 years old. I've played maybe a 1,000 more games in the modern era of the women's game than April [Heinrichs] has, and I feel like there's things that need to happen in order to facilitate an environment for professional women soccer players. If that environment isn't going to be professional and if that environment isn't going to allow me to be the player that I am, then it's not worth it. (quoted in "Where's Tiffeny?" Associated Press, 20 June)

Bleak Prospects in Kenya: Long Meetings, Not Much Football
We are not sure that we can sort out the situation in Kenya, where the football federation (KFF) has been suspended since 2 June and several of its officials arrested (Gilbert Wandera, "Court Case Angers FIFA," East African Standard).

The machinations among Kenya's football authorities, one columnist writes, make it harder for Kenyans to see in football "the potential to change their lives." (www.kenya.de)
The immediate effect is that Kenya stands ineligible for World Cup qualifying, having already missed a scheduled 5 June fixture against Guinea. Alleged corruption in the KFF had caused the Kenyan government, led by sports minister Najib Balala, to appoint a committee of stakeholders to look into the KFF's dealings. This is the tampering that FIFA claimed violated its statutes. Although it is difficult to evaluate the independence of Kenyan media, reaction has been tempered, with some even welcoming FIFA's action:

I choose to believe that Fifa have, through this suspension, granted Kenya a clean slate to reposition the pillars of the game for posterity. The message the suspension delivers appears to be that the sooner the government minister and his KFF Stakeholders Transitional Committee can get the electioneering process in motion and get an independent KFF office elected, and in place, the quicker we can be re-admitted to the world[,] but we need to take a break and re-think things. . . . Football is the most popular sport in Kenya but it has been abused by those who have found their way to administering it. In the process, this has discouraged many people from seeing in it the potential to change their lives. (Sulubu Tuva, "FIFA Ban Gives Us Chance to Redeem Kenyan Soccer," Daily Nation, 5 June)

As for FIFA's role, the incident demonstrates—as with the absurd docking and then restoration of six World Cup qualifying points from Cameroon, all over their donning of a one-piece uniform at the African Cup of Nations in January—the organization's amazing reach and its own unchecked authority. As centenary festivities died down in Paris, Marcelo Balvé wrote eloquently of FIFA's unique role among world sporting organizations, referring to Diego Maradona's characterization of FIFA as a "mafia, a sect." Balvé writes, "Some compare FIFA . . . to the United Nations because of its lack of transparency, its bureaucratic character and because it is the supreme authority overseeing the unruly mass of national soccer organizations that together constitute the corruption-prone world of international soccer. No matter where you are, be it in France, Brazil or Iran, soccer fans regard the acronym with a mixture of dread and respect" ("On 100th Birthday, World Soccer's Governing Body Wields Vast Power," New California Media, 2 June). As for Cameroon, if they dare to wear the singlet, we salute them.

Update, 29 Jan 05: On 9 July 2004 FIFA announced formation of a Normalisation Committee, chaired by International Olympic Committee executive member and legendary middle-distance runner Kipchoge Keino. One month later, on 6 August, FIFA provisionally restored Kenya's international status, meaning that its World Cup qualifiers could be rescheduled. With two games in hand on Group 5 leaders Guinea, Kenya trails by just two points with six points from its three matches thus far. The five group winners in Africa advance to the World Cup finals.

For more background on the Kenyan situation, read Adili 55 (PDF file; 26 April 2004). The newsletter of Transparency International Kenya, an NGO advocating accountability in government, this issue addresses a long history of corruption in the Kenya Football Federation and in Kenyan sports in general. "[C]orrupt sports administrators enjoy massive benefits from sports at the expense of sportsmen and women, many of whom live and die in crushing poverty," begins the lead article.

The U.S. Invaded and Left Friends Behind
The United States will play Grenada for the first time on Sunday, in the first leg of a 2006 World Cup qualifier, amid an odd confluence of circumstances. The nations have had few meaningful encounters since 1983, when the United States, gripped by Cold War fervor, invaded the island nation,

Grenada Prime Minister Kevin Mitchell was a math professor at Howard University and is a former captain of Grenada's cricket team. (AP)
the southernmost in the Caribbean's Windward Islands (Kelly Whiteside, "Grenada Adding Spice to Big Mismatch vs. U.S.," USA Today). The man who authorized the invasion, Ronald Reagan, will be lionized this weekend in ceremonies culminating a week's remembrance of the 40th president. "Ronald Reagan is still seen as a popular person in Grenada," said prime minister Kevin Mitchell, interviewed before Reagan's death. "If not for America, we may not be here." Although Grenada does have players in professional leagues in England and in Major League Soccer, most hold down other jobs at home. There is a pool of only some 400 male players on an island where cricket is the most popular sport. Whiteside describes practice before a friendly with St. Lucia, at which players assembled the goals and waited for a cricket team to vacate the premises. "I'm pampered in England, so when I come back here, it's like bringing football back to its roots," said Jason Roberts, who plays for Wigan Athletic. "Putting goals together and doing everything else is like a bonding experience for the boys." For Sunday's match, the Spice Boyz have been training at Howard University in Washington, which has a substantial Grenadian expatriate community (Steven Goff, "Spice Boyz Are Kickin' It at Howard U.," Washington Post, 11 June). The second leg of the series takes place in the National Stadium in St. George's—capacity 7,500—on 20 June.